Porsche dominate at Fuji, taking 1-2 in FIA WEC qualifying

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Porsche unleashed the best warning shot they could to Audi that they are a force to be reckoned with coming into the sharp end of the season as they claimed the first two places on the grid at Fuji.

Carrying on their massive speed that they’ve had all season in the FIA World Endurance Championship, it was the #17 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard that came out best of the two Stuttgart entries with a time of 1:22.763 – more than three tenths faster than the #18 of Romain Dumas, Neel Jani and Marc Lieb which had set at 1:23.071.

Behind the pair of Porsches was the first of the Audis with Andre Lotterer, Marcel Fassler and Benoit Treluyer putting their R18 E-Tron Quattro in third position with a 1:23.082 making them really unlucky not to be able to get onto the front row.

Two tenths behind was the second Audi of Oliver Jarvis, Lucas Di Grassi and Loic Duval, making sure the first two rows had a distinctly Germanic flavour.

After that there was a rather major gulf back to the two Toyota Gazoo Racing TS040s which couldn’t break out of the 1:25s and were very much in a battle with themselves. Claiming fifth and home honours was the car of Anthony Davidson, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima which logged an average time of 1:25.072 to place themselves ahead of the sister car of Mike Conway, Alex Wurz and Stephane Sarrazin.

Seventh and eighth were the two Rebellion cars which finish a clear margin ahead of the Team ByKolles CLM.

Into LMP2 and it was another 1-2 at the front of the class as the two G-Drive Racing Ligier-Nissans fought amongst themselves as Sam Bird in the #26 and Gustavo Yacaman in the #28 set fast lap after fast lap to try and claim pole off each other. Bird in the end managed to hold onto pole by only two tenths of a second with a 1:31.529 compared to Yacaman’s 1:31.750.

Behind the pair of them, and hoping for something good to come their way in the race, is the Team SARD Morand Morgan as Pierre Ragues and Oliver Webb combined to record an average of 1:32.163.

They’ll need to keep their wits about them though as the very rapid KCMG Oreca 05 is starting directly behind them in fourth. The team would have been harder but Nick Tandy made one of those things that Nick Tandy never makes – a mistake – and they lost time repairing minor damage after the Brit clattered the barriers.

Into GTE Pro and it was yet another front row lock out as AF Corse placed both of their Ferrari 458s in first and second with Davide Rigon finishing a tenth better off to deny a hard charging Toni Villander pole position.

Behind them is the #99 Aston Martin Racing Vantage of Fernando Rees, Alex MacDowall and Stefan Mucke which managed to hold off the might of the Porsches to start on third and looking to make a good start tomorrow.

Finally GTE Am and it was another Ferrari, the  #72 SMP Racing entry, which wound up on pole position. It was initially the #50 Larbre Competition Corvette on pole but a fuel cell irregularity relegated them to the back of the grid – that has promoted the Aston of Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda to second. Of note, Liam Griffin – who is making his first start in the WEC this weekend for Aston Martin, will start tomorrow’s six hour race in fifth place in class.

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